Firhad Hakim, a prominent leader in the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and a key figure in Mamata Banerjee’s cabinet, recently had his home in south Kolkata raided by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). This investigation was related to an alleged municipality recruitment scam. Notably, this is not the first time Hakim has found himself in the crosshairs of the central investigative agency.
In 2016, Hakim faced allegations of accepting bribes in the Narada sting operation case. The CBI’s Anti-Corruption Branch named him as an accused in the Narada case FIR in 2017. Subsequently, in May 2021, the CBI arrested him in connection with the same case. However, he was later released on bail. These allegations have contributed to a growing divide between Hakim, considered one of Mamata Banerjee’s trusted aides, and Abhishek Banerjee, the de facto number two in the TMC, and also Mamata’s nephew.
Firhad Hakim’s Background
Firhad Hakim, popularly known as “Bobby da” in political circles, holds the position of the state Minister of Urban Development and Municipal Affairs and is the Mayor of Kolkata. He has been associated with the TMC since its inception in 1998. Hakim, who represents the Kolkata Port constituency in the Legislative Assembly, previously managed the transport and housing portfolios in the state Cabinet.
Longstanding Involvement with TMC
Hakim’s political journey began in 2009 when he was elected to the Assembly in a bypoll from Alipore. In 2011, during the TMC’s rise to power, he secured the Kolkata Port seat and has retained it since. Moreover, he has served as the Mayor of the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) on two occasions, making history as the first Muslim to hold this position since Independence. Following the resignation of former Mayor Sovan Chatterjee in November 2018, the TMC reappointed Hakim to the role in 2021.
Clashes with Abhishek Banerjee
As Abhishek Banerjee’s influence in the TMC grew, differences between him and Firhad Hakim became apparent. In 2021, these differences surfaced publicly when Abhishek challenged the old guard’s choice of candidates for the civic polls. Abhishek advocated against granting tickets to relatives of leaders or individuals with a “tainted” background. However, a faction of veteran TMC leaders opposed this stance, and Mamata chose to disregard her nephew’s suggestion.
Challenges and Confrontations
Earlier this year, after the TMC faced a setback in the Sagardighi bypoll in Murshidabad and concerns arose about the shifting minority vote, Hakim was removed as the chairman of the Furfura Sharif Development Board. Furfura Sharif in Hooghly district is the second-most prominent Sufi shrine in India after Ajmer Sharif in Rajasthan.
In April, another dispute arose when Hakim and Abhishek clashed over increased parking fees under the KMC’s jurisdiction. Shortly after the Mayor implemented the fee hike, the party forced a withdrawal due to criticism from Kunal Ghosh, a spokesperson and Abhishek’s supporter, who claimed the hike was imposed without the CM’s approval and was not endorsed by the party or the government. Notably, the KMC is an autonomous civic body.
In summary, Firhad Hakim, a significant TMC figure, has faced several challenges, both legal and internal, as the party evolves and adapts to changing dynamics and priorities.